April 2nd, 2014
Great piece by Tim Alper in Total Football Mag
When you think of corruption in Asian football, the image that immediately comes to mind is that of shady individuals from former Soviet Republics clutching brown envelopes stuffed with cash. Western European football fans frequently recall 1995, when Dynamo Kyiv were booted out of UEFA competitions for attempting to buy off a Spanish referee with a couple of fur coats and a suitcase full of money.
Yet the former Soviet states have nothing, it would seem, on the rest of Asia, where match-fixing scandals are now a wildfire threatening to rage out of control. The latest embarrassing episode has seen FIFA step in to investigate a World Cup 2014 qualifying match between Bahrain and Indonesia (pictured).
Bahrain had gone into the match needing a nine-goal victory to stand a chance of qualifying for the next stage. They ended up winning 10-0. The match saw Bahrain awarded four penalties and the Indonesian goalkeeper was red-carded inside the first five minutes.
The head of the Asian Football Confederation, Alex Soosay, has come out with denials. He said: “I am confident none of our teams are involved in anything untoward. Bahrain were the better team both tactically and technically.”
But the investigation goes on, and others, including even the Indonesian president do not share Soosay’s optimism. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian head of state, said he was “deeply concerned by what has happened.”
Regardless of the result of this FIFA probe, it only really succeeds in pointing to a much larger problem. Asian football has been enjoying steady growth since the latter part of last century. Japan’s J-League attracts some of the biggest crowds in world football, and Asian teams have succeeded in snapping up some big name players.
From Gary Lineker at Japan’s Grampus, to Paul Gascoigne at Gansu Tianma, Robbie Fowler in the Australian A-League and Nicolas Anelka’s recent transfer to Shanghai Shenhua, Asian football has demonstrated a clear desire to compete. In 2002, the eyes of the World turned to Asia, as South Korea and Japan hosted the first ever World Cup to be held on the continent.
But now, an ugly spectre threatens to derail all this progress. All across the continent, from its western edges, all the way to the very easternmost end of Asia, the menace of footballing corruption just will not go away. Aziz Yildirim, the chairman of Turkish giants Fenerbahce is now on trial on charges of fixing up to 19 league matches last season, with mobs of angry protesters camped outside the courthouse.
Chris Eaton, head of FIFA’s security unit says he has handed over evidence to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission which may prove that football officials in Malaysia have been involved in match-fixing.
In China, four referees, including ‘Golden Whistle’ Lu Jun, the only Chinese official to referee at the World Cup, have been thrown into jail after being found guilty of taking hefty bribes. Lu is a household name amongst Chinese football fans, but the courts showed him no mercy and handed him a sentence of five and a half years behind bars.
South Korea is the one Asian country that has been hit hardest by scandals of this sort. The 2011 K-League season has left the sport on its knees. Two players took their own lives as stories started to emerge last summer of how several K-League and League Cup matches had been rigged.
Players, it was revealed, had thrown matches in exchange for money from illegal betting groups. The South Korean authorities came down on offenders like a ton of bricks, throwing dozens of players into prison. Many were even sentenced to hard labour.
Ever since the K-League scandal, Korean sport has been threatening to implode, as players and coaches from other sports, like professional baseball and volleyball have admitted to taking money for throwing matches and spot-fixing. Korea’s K-League limps on, but the footballing authorities have abolished the League Cup in response to this tragic fiasco.
Japan’s J-League has also announced that it will take desperate measures to stop the violent Yakuza gangs from interfering with Japanese football. Authorities have set up an anti-corruption hotline in an attempt to keep the Yakuza away from football.
The J-League recently released a joint statement with players and referees in the country saying, “to protect the J-League from wrongdoing, it is necessary for us in football to continue cutting relations with anti-social forces, including crime syndicates.”
Experts are divided as to why football corruption is so rampant in Asian football. Betting on sports is illegal in many Asian countries, and few overseas betting agencies offer odds on the lesser Asian leagues.
But one theory is that the reason why Asian leagues are such attractive targets for corruption is precisely because they receive so little international attention. In strict Far Eastern societies, or devout Muslim nations, sports betting is exclusively an underground affair.
As this means even a modest bet involves the risk of jail time, it seems natural in such an environment, that players and officials will get approached by dubious individuals.
Although authorities in Asia have sent out the right message by cracking down hard on offenders, it seems almost impossible to stop the rot. Apologists will say that match-fixing scandals are hardly the preserve of Asian football – corruption is also rife in Africa, South America, and certainly Europe.
But if Asian countries cannot put an end to corruption scandals, football in this part of the world might never truly get the chance to bloom.
By Tim Alper
Tim Alper writes for South Korea’s leading football monthly magazine, Best ElevenCategories: Asia, bribery, Corruption,
March 31st, 2014
“[it is not fair to single out Malaysia and Singapore]… match-fixing is a problem limited not just to Malaysia and Singapore football.”
There is a great Yiddish joke about the definition of chutzpah.
“Chutzpah is when a man murders his mother and father and then begs mercy from the court because he is an orphan.”
I thought about this joke and laughed very loudly when I read a story about Malaysian and Singaporean football officials complaining about me because I said match-fixing was deeply entrenched in their football (‘Brisbane Times’ newspaper article from earlier this week).
There are some events, some quotes, some stories in journalism that are so funny, so deeply comic that you could not make them up. The only thing to do when hearing about them is to laugh long and hard.
If there were a competition for Chutzpah – the sports officials of Malaysia and Singapore might win gold medals. (Sadly, you cannot say the same thing for the Malaysian and Singaporean national teams as their FIFA rankings have declined significantly since the systemic infestation of match-fixing in their leagues).
However, despite the humour this is a very important story for football-lovers around the world. Let us start at the beginning.
I like Malaysia and deeply respect its culture. Part of the reason why I like the country and its society is that when I was doing my research there I met very few people who did not openly speak about how its football league was corrupt. Tunkus, Dattos, (Princes and Lords), cabdrivers, journalists, players, coaches, fans, policemen, sports officials, fixers – men, women – just about everyone spoke about what a corrupted mess their sport was in.
This is pretty unusual stuff for Asia. Singapore, for example, is largely composed of officials who bravely say things like, “Lee Kuan Yew is brilliant” – but little else.
To be fair to Singapore, it is a much less corrupt country than Malaysia and the ruling political party (Lee Kuan Yew’s lot) have done a generally good of governing their society. However, the Singaporeans are often so afraid of open discussion that they have restricted, on occasion, The Economist and thrown political opponents in jail.
Here is the important truth that must be repeated constantly:
Singapore and Malaysian football is deeply corrupted. It is suffused with match-fixing. Not every game, nor every team is fixed – but fixing scandals occur so frequently that no one is surprised when, as happened earlier this season, an entire Malaysian team was banned for fixing their games.
Here is the second important truth that must be repeated constantly:
Many of the people who fixed football matches in Malaysia and Singapore have gone around the world and fixed games in dozens of different countries and leagues.
Repeat – much of the reason why the ‘match-fixing is not limited to Malaysia and Singapore’ is because of Malaysian and Singaporeans fixers.
Why is this important?
Because if you want to stop match-fixing in your own league, you have to stop it in its two principal source countries of Malaysia and Singapore.
This is not to say that there are not local fixers, but what they are often doing is hooking up with the Malaysians and Singaporean fixers. The local fixers fix the match (they know the players, the coaches, etc): the Malaysians and Singaporeans fix the gambling market.
Want to stop this current wave of globalized match-fixing?
Put pressure on the Malaysian and Singaporean governments to properly investigate and publicly prosecute the culture of match-fixing that permeates their leagues.
There is no one better to stop this wave of match-fixing than properly tasked Asian law enforcement arresting and putting on trial Asian criminals.
We do not need more conferences. We do not need more ‘education courses’. We do not need more committees studying the problem.
We just need one European politician or senior sports official from FIFA, IOC or UEFA standing up and saying,
“Malaysian and Singapore unless you put all the fixers that are operating in your country on a public trial and show that you are ready to seriously root out this problem, you will not be welcome in international sport.”
It really is that simple.
This current wave of globalized match-fixing can be beaten that easily.Categories: Asia,
March 29th, 2014
‘Integrity’ advice for players at finals and anti-corruption hotline to report suspicious activity as security chief warns of ‘wake-up call’ to game in England.
England’s players will be given special briefings about what to do if they are targeted by match-fixers during the World Cup.
For the first time at football’s biggest tournament, players from all 32 competing nations will be given “integrity sessions” by Fifa officials, when they will be told to report anything suspicious via a special anti-corruption hotline available only to players and referees.
The threat posed to the World Cup by organised crime networks all over the world is being taken so seriously by Fifa that it has put a raft of unprecedented measures in place.
In his first major UK interview, Ralf Mutschke, Fifa’s head of security, also issued a stark warning to English football over match-fixing, saying a series of arrests by the National Crime Agency last year should act as a “wake-up call” about the seriousness of the problem.
Mutschke, the most senior anti-corruption official in the world game, also told the British Government it would succeed only in combating the threat to sporting integrity in the UK if it passed a law specifically to deal with match-fixing, something it has so far refused to do.
Read the rest of this entry »
March 27th, 2014
By Andrea Tan Mar 6, 2014
A Singapore businessman accused of offering free sex from prostitutes in an effort to influence soccer officials and fix matches lost a bid to have the charges dismissed in the midst of his trial.
District Judge Toh Yung Cheong today rejected the request, telling Ding Si Yang, 31, he may choose to defend himself or remain silent.
International organized crime groups are increasingly involved in match-fixing and using the profits to fund other illegal activities, according to Interpol. Law enforcement and soccer associations around the globe are cracking down on corruption of the world’s most popular sport, with 14 people having been arrested in Singapore in September.
Players and officials in countries including Italy, China, South Korea, Hungary and Finland have been banned or charged with fixing matches.
Ding sought to have charges that he provided free sexual services in a bid to influence three Lebanese soccer officials thrown out without having to defend himself in Singapore Subordinate Courts.
“There’s no credible evidence to establish or even show that gratification was offered,” Ding’s lawyer Thong Chee Kun said. “Mr. Ding must be discharged today of all three charges.”
No direct evidence was presented that showed Ding arranged for the women, although others may have, Thong said.
Realm of Fantasy
“That possibility exists only in the realm of fantasy,” Prosecutor Alan Loh responded. “That realm is in the mind of the accused.”
The three Lebanese officials had pleaded guilty to accepting sexual favors. Two assistant referees were sentenced in June to three months in jail, with a referee receiving a six-month jail term.
All were deported after serving their sentences.
The men were scheduled to officiate an April 3 Asian Football Confederation Cup game in Singapore. They were replaced before the match between Singapore-based Tampines Rovers and East Bengal, which won 4-2 in a game that included an own goal by the Rovers.
Ding was a freelance reporter doing soccer-related research for a book, his lawyer had said during the trial. If convicted, Ding can be jailed for as long as five years and fined as much as S$100,000 for each of the three charges.
The criminal case is Public Prosecutor v Ding Si Yang DAC011276 to DAC011278/2013. Singapore Subordinate Courts.
To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Tan in Singapore at email@example.comCategories: Asia, bribery, Corruption,
March 25th, 2014
From World Football Insider March 5, 2014
The risks of match-fixing to football in Oceania was highlighted at the recent INTERPOL Integrity in Sport – FIFA conference, co-hosted by the Oceania Football Confederation, Fiji Football Association and Fiji Police.
The two-day meeting, held in Fiji, brought together almost 100 regional football administrators, players’ associations, referees, football club owners, government agencies and police officials from 11 countries across the region.
OFC President David Chung believes the outcomes from the conference will have a profound effect on future-proofing Oceania football from harm.
“The conference imparted important knowledge for our member associations that will protect the integrity of our domestic and regional competitions from match-fixing.
“Football remains a very emotional game and its allure and attraction for those who do not have the sport’s best interests at heart means everyone must be vigilant,” he says.
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